Prayer, reflection, advocacy and song marked the shloshim – the 30-day mourning period – of kidnapped and murdered Israeli teenagers Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifra and Naftali Fraenkel, when, on Wednesday night, Stand With Us, Temple of the Arts and the Israel Institute co-sponsored a free and open-to-the-public event in the deceased's memory that drew approximately 1,000 community members to the Saban Theatre.
Participants in the evening’s somber, two-hour program included Leehy Shaar, who offered up personal feelings about her late nephew, Gilad, and described the personalities of Fraenkel and Yifra. She highlighted their senses of humor, their interests and the tragedy of their deaths.
Additionally, Beth Jacob Congregation Senior Rabbi Kalman Topp read aloud a psalm in Hebrew and English, and musician Sam Glaser offered up musical performances that conjured the sadness of the deaths and the hope for a better future in Israel. He closed the evening with a rendition of Oseh Shalom.
30 days have passed since Shaar, Yifra and Fraenkel’s funeral took place in Israel on July 1, one day after Israeli authorities discovered their dead bodies in the West Bank.
During the 18-day search for the boys, who were yeshiva students who went missing on June 12 after hitch-hiking at a bus stop in the West Bank, Los Angeles took notice. An event at Pan Pacific Park in mid-June gathered the community around the hope that the boys were alive.
And, following the shocking news of their death, 1,500 people turned out to Beth Jacob Congregation for a memorial service.
Israel blamed Hamas for the murders of the three boys.
Meanwhile, for the pro-Israel international community, the teens' horrifying fate has become symbolic of the ruthlessness of Hamas, an organization that has called for Israel’s destruction and that controls Gaza.
Their death also, in part, prompted Israel’s current military operation in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge. More than 1,000 Palestinian civilians and more than 50 Israeli soldiers have died.
On Thursday afternoon, the two sides entered into a 72-hour ceasefire.
On Wednesday, the audience at the Saban stood up from their seats during a video presentation honoring all 56 IDF soldiers who have been killed in battle as of July 30. A fourth candle was added to a table alongside the three candles for Shaar, Fraenkel and Yifra, in remembrance of the dozens of deceased Israeli soldiers.
The evening offered more than remembrance. Several speakers, including Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel, Simon Wiesenthal Center leader Marvin Hier and Stand With Us CEO Roz Rothstein, spoke about what Israel is up against in its current war with Gaza.
Gaza has launched “nearly 3,000 rockets since the kidnapping [of the three boys]," Siegel said. "This country wouldn’t allow one."
On August 12, the Saban hosts a memorial service for Los Angeleno and fallen IDF soldier Max Steinberg.